In the deaths of five children in North Minneapolis
On Saturday, February 15, 2014, Minneapolis Fire Department units rushed to a blazing and fatal fire at 2818 Colfax Avenue, North. Five beautiful, precious and innocent children lost their lives. The father, who lost his wife to heart disease a couple of months ago, now loses five of his children.
He tried to rescue them. Three were burnt beyond recognition. The father, suffering burns and smoke inhalation, is still in the hospital.
This tragedy will forever have an enormous impact on the father, Troy Lewis, and his surviving daughters, as well as on the many friends, family and loved ones. This tragedy raises two major question: (1) why the continued lack of good affordable housing in Minneapolis, and (2) why does the pattern and practice continue in the City of Minneapolis inspections that allow slum landlords and city inspectors to prey upon the poor, specifically people of color?
The Fire Department did everything that could be done professionally and humanly for this fire that should never have happened. This father and his children had only been in the house a couple of months. Yet the house passed city inspection. How, when they were forced to use space heaters for heat, one in the middle of the apartment? This calls for an examination of the inspection reports.
Rules and procedures, codes and statutes governing government protocols for inspections and examinations and clearances for houses to be occupied are too often ignored. It’s a win- win for slum landlords and inspectors but not for those in danger due to inspection deals. It has long been felt — and many know stories about — that too many envelopes are passed back and forth under the table that allow inspectors to look the other way.
Any damn fool would have recognized the red flag: space heaters situated throughout the apartment, and a neglecting landlord, Paul Bertelson. Why did the Star Tribune intentionally spell his name with an “o” instead of an “e”? Could it be because another member of the family, Philip, was involved in the death of two African Americans on November 3, 2013, in North Minneapolis on Olson Highway?
In fact, the company that is used by these landlords, Mission Inn Minnesota, Inc., has a history defined by inspectors ignoring what they find and the White media not investigating. The number of properties that they control and their ability to get them to pass inspection, particularly in North Minneapolis, again raises serious questions about bribes and kickbacks.
It is bad enough that the November 3 vehicular homicide has yet to receive a complete reconstruction. Why does the Star Tribune make no effort to report this drunken murderer?
Yes, it is murder, vehicular homicide. We know that if it was an intoxicated Black driver killing two Whites, he would be under the jail as we speak.
Will statements made by Bertleson that the walls and ceilings were insulated when they were not be investigated? Saying the tenant is at fault for faulty setting of the controls passes the buck to sidestep poor wiring and unsafe heat. The Star Tribune has a responsibility to the public to use the Freedom of Information Act, to pull inspection reports.
Blaming the victims is the sad default of too many dealing with tragedy in the Black community. We can only offer prayers for those that have survived and for the five beautiful African American children who perished, whose deaths again remind us that there are serious questions of the culture of corruption at work in the city of Minneapolis.
For Ron’s hosted radio and TV show’s broadcast times, solution papers, books and archives, go to www.TheMinneapolisStory.com. To order his books go to Beacon on the Hill Press.